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  • San Chima

The only certainty is uncertainty: navigating your business through uncharted waters

Updated: Jul 1, 2023

“If there’s one thing that’s certain in business, it’s uncertainty.”

- Stephen Covey

One thing we’re all growing mightily familiar with is uncertainty. If we thought Brexit wrangling gave us a business habitat of the unknown, it was nothing compared to this. Even in ‘normal’ times, uncertainty and business are uneasy, but frequent, bedfellows. Here, right now in coronavirus lockdown, uncertainty is screaming for attention in every conceivable way. To not just survive, but thrive, during this extreme period of uncertainty, we need some ingenious and consistent approaches to the situation we face.

How do you deal with uncertainty?

Uncertainty in our professional lives can lead to anxiety and stress. However, the reality is that whilst the current situation may be extreme, uncertainty is a very normal part of business life, over the course of time.

Learning to become, if not comfortable, but at ease with certainty, opens up rich possibilities. In order to banish the fear and embrace the opportunities of uncertainty, you have plenty of things you can do:

1. Acceptance

Hitting your head against the figurative locked door will do nothing except give you a headache. In this case, the uncertainty is well and truly out of your control; fighting against it will do nothing except exhaust you.

So accept the situation for what it is, and approach it in a more constructive way.

2. Take control where you can

Uncertainty brings a sense of being out of control. As I’ve just said, ‘this’ isn’t in your control. However, there are things – including your responses – which are within your sphere of influence and control. Turn your focus away from what you can’t control, and shine a light on what you can.

3. Take time

View uncertainty as a crossroads at which you must pause and consider your direction of travel. Admittedly, right now it’s more akin to a spaghetti junction, but what’s important is that you don’t make rash decisions rooted in fear.

Instead, take stock and re-evaluate your business right here, right now. Look at the key numbers of importance, and have a very clear understanding of where you are, what’s going well, what’s not, and where your potential lies.

4. Get your ducks in a row

With a clearer picture, it’s time to get organised. Identify processes where things could be more effective or more efficient, and make improvements. At a business level, now is the time to be looking at processes that lumber along, and consider how they can be more successful. This approach leads to resilience, a key characteristic needed to weather the storm of change.

5. Look outwards

What is really going on? Look beyond the media hype and hyperbole to examine what is really going on within your arena of operation. What are others in your industry doing? What’s the reality on the ground?

Armed with accurate information about your immediate environment, you can begin to formulate plans that fit in with this, and impact your business decisions positively.

6. Stop. Plan. Prepare.

Again, don’t rush. Stop here to consider how different approaches will result in different possible outcomes. Weigh up your options. Then plan according to the ones which most align with your goals and future chances of success. Keep it flexible, but move from planning towards making the changes you need to.

7. Stare risk in the eye, and then spread it thinly

Don’t be an ostrich. Wherever risk resides in the business, examine it and its potential for exposure or trouble. If that risk is firmly refusing to budge, then it’s time to consider how you can spread that risk. It may be time to look at the support available to you from the government during coronavirus, reducing your debt, changing your customers or suppliers, or making other risk-management adjustments.

8. Scout for opportunities

In times of uncertainty lie opportunities. It may take some creative thinking and problem- solving, but for many there will be opportunities right here, right now. Even if those opportunities don’t impact the bottom line just yet, there are almost certainly PR opportunities to capitalise on. So think laterally, and consider where your opportunities lie.

9. Get ready to flex

To respond in a positive way to uncertainty, you’ll need to be agile and flexible. Look for opportunities and plan, but also be prepared to turn on the spot, when needed. As plans develop, don’t refuse to adapt them if things change. That’s normal, and the best plans should always be adaptable.

10. Take action

Once you’ve done all the groundwork and preparation above, it’s time to shift gears. You’ll need to move quickly and decisively to put plans into action and keep ahead of the evolving landscape.

11. Take your temperature

Much like you’re looking out for signs of the virus, look out for signs of trouble or worry in yourself, your business relationships and those you work with. Checking in will ensure that you can catch growing problems early, and head them off at the pass. Bring things round to a positive way of thinking, and stop negative thoughts in their track.

Bring on board the support squad

Weathering uncertainty is unsettling. It can feel isolating and bewildering. Now is the time to draw on your network of support. However, it’s also precisely the time when an expert can make the difference between boom and bust. Whether you need help with goal-setting and decision-making in your business, or need encouragement and reassurance, a business coach will help you harness the opportunities of uncertainty. With a business coach in your corner right now, you’ll be the business that comes out stronger, more resilient, and having maximised every opportunity that passed others by.

As humans, we dig our heels in when it comes to change and uncertainty. However, as the quotation at the start explains – uncertainty is also very much part of the human condition and business itself. The winners are those who embrace it, rather than shy away from it.

Looking for some help with that? Check out my business coaching services.

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